Unexceptional classifieds: Mazda 323 1.5 GLX estate

by Tom Barnard
24 February 2023 3 min read
Unexceptional classifieds: Mazda 323 1.5 GLX estate
Photos: Letchworth Motor Auctions

Price: Auction
Mileage: 39,799
Condition: Uniquely original
Advert: Letchworth Motor Auctions

What’s the ultimate classic? The car all enthusiasts would dream of owning, which would set new records at auction. A Bugatti Royale maybe ? Or possibly a Ferrari 250GTO?

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There is an equivalent in the unexceptional classic world too. It is the pinnacle of mundane ordinariness; a car which wasn’t even awful enough to be interesting when it was new. Its name is used in conversations among car nerds to test each other’s knowledge: if you have heard of a Sao Penza, then you are truly at the PhD level of geekiness.

You are unlikely to ever own one though, as the Penza is now rarer than any 250GTO. Just 1,071 were sold in the UK and a mere decade after launch the numbers had dwindled to 86. Now there is just the one car left, and that’s not currently taxed. When the survivor eventually makes it to the Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional, the crowds will probably welcome the owner like a superstar.

There is a way you could bask in the glow of the Penza’s unexceptionalness though, and it’s coming up for auction at the beginning of March. You see the Sao was a South-African made continuation of the sixth-generation Mazda 323, and it is one of these original Japanese-built Mazdas which is coming under the hammer. To add to its rarity (and usefulness), it’s an estate.

The website How Many Left doesn’t separate out the estates from the more common hatchbacks, but there are currently just three 1.5 GLXs taxed. Dare we assume this is the only estate? We just did – and it’s practically perfect.

F749MNK was registered to a lady owner by Hitchin’s now-disappeared Mazda dealer, J.N. Thomson & Sons, on the 1st April 1989. It has remained in the area ever since – even the auction in Letchworth is just a few miles away from where it was registered.

The dealer’s sticker is still in the back window and its name is on both numberplates, suggesting it has not even had a parking knock in its 34 years.

Among the wedge of paperwork is the original bill of sale showing a price of £8,200 including the optional metallic Ocean Blue paint. Since the receipt was signed in 1989 it’s covered a mere 39,799 miles in the hands of the original owner, her relations and, since 2019, a family friend.

There are 11 stamps in the service book – including a new cambelt and water pump in 2019 – and an MoT history which shows a steady climb in miles, with mentions for only minor items such as tyres and a single case of an exhaust blow. It’s just had a fresh test too, meaning you won’t have a panic to get it roadworthy in time for this year’s FOTU.

A glance through the pictures is like stepping into the past, as nothing has been changed or upgraded. It’s difficult to fathom what makes this car an ‘Executive’ model, as its basic equipment levels were unlikely to have appealed to any thrusting yuppie from 1989. There are wind-up windows all round, bare steel wheels and basic cloth trim. Perhaps the digital cassette radio is the upgrade? Or the chrome tailpipe accessory? In any case, the original brochure is also in the paperwork so you can research the specs to your heart’s content.

It appears there’s nothing to do mechanically to the Mazda, except perhaps moving the spare wheel (wearing what would appear to be the original tyre) back under the boot floor where it belongs. That will allow you to admire the seemingly spotless carpet – there’s no sign of the paint splats or dog hair that normally blight the boot trim in a hard-worked old estate. Even the load cover is still in place.

When it’s not being admired at shows you can put down a tarpaulin and use it for trips to the tip or Ikea. Try that in a 250 GTO and you’ll soon realise this possibly unique Mazda is a much more sensible choice, especially as the guide price is a mere £2500 to £3500.

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  • AKIRA KANAYA says:

    I am the owner who still drives this car in Japan. I really like the convenience of this car, and I maintain it and drive it. However, my car does not have a tonneau cover that should be equipped with it. I would be very grateful if you would sell me just the tonneau cover. I look forward to your reply.

    Yours truly,

    I’m a Moody Blues fan, also.

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